We uncover potential problems with Providence's property tax system
Eyewitness News discovers potential problems with the city of Providence's property tax system.
The city says it collects a very high percentage of outstanding taxes. We uncovered the system of record keeping can be confusing and misleading- leaving some tax payers not getting their bills and losing their homes.
When we asked the city for the names of delinquent taxpayers, several weeks went by before we got a list and quickly learned it was incomplete.
In fact, it underestimated the taxes that might be owed to the city by more than a million dollars.
The city's finance director assured us no effort was being made to protect anyone and that some property owners left off the list were in bankruptcy or were seeking tax exempt status.
"It was my understanding that when we provided the list that in trying to, not knowing how they were going to be used or whatever, properties that were in dispute maybe litigation..."
W hen Eyewitness News notified the city there were property owners who should be on the tax delinquent list, but were not, the city came up with a 17-page supplemental list of tax delinquents.
On the new list was the Rhode Island Community Food Bank.Taxes owed - $108,607.
Since that time, the city council has forgiven 75,000 of the Food Bank taxes, the remaining $33,000 was collected by the city..
Another prominent name left off the initial list was Trinity Repertory Company for new property on Empire Street.Taxes owed - about $40,000.
A request has been made to forgive those taxes, but no decision has been made by the city council.
The first list said there was $1,5 million in delinquent taxes. The supplemental list said there was an additional $1.3 million in outstanding taxes- for a total of about $2.8 million.
Mayor David Cicilline said his is an open administration and he would look into why we were not provided a complete tax delinquent list to begin with.
"You should always get the materials request as quickly as we can get them to you."
W e also learned that the records are not always what they seem.For example, the list of tax delinquents shows companies owned by some real estate speculators owe the city taxes, but that is not necessarily the case.Despite what the documents say, the taxes are owed by the property owner, not the speculator who has purchased a lien on the property at a city tax sale.
"Well, the tax bill goes to the person who owns the tax lien, but i believe the property owner should still pay the taxes up until they areforeclosed."
M any people complain that the city does not properly notify property owners when they owe taxes.
The city says it does.But critics say the system that has tax bills going to speculators rather than to property owners causes confusion.The city promises to change that procedure by notifying property owners of outstanding taxes as well.